Carl Radke has been on the Bravo reality show "Summer House" since 2016.
In 2021, he got sober following the death of his brother and hitting "rock bottom."
He's still on the show, but handles conflict differently and finds other ways to let loose.
For seven seasons, "Summer House" has delivered prime reality TV: Around 10 people meet up on summer weekends for a Hamptons getaway that's equal parts debaucherous and dramatic. Cast members throw themed "hoe-down" parties, argue at wineries, and grumble as they clean up Solo cups while nursing days-long hangovers.
But amid all the tossed wine glasses, drunken stormouts, and tequila-fueled hookups, a quieter plotline stands out: One of its stars going — and staying — sober.
Carl Radke, 38, has been on the show since its very beginning in 2016. For five seasons, he dated and fought with co-stars, at one point in the show dubbing himself a "recovering f*ckboy."
Then, in 2020, his brother passed away from a drug overdose. "The way I dealt with the grief and the pain was to continue to drink and party," Radke told Insider, listing alcohol and cocaine as the substances that were "ruining his life."
"I hit my rock bottom in early January of 2021," he said. "And it was just time. I just didn't want to live like that anymore."
Sobriety has been steadily growing in popularity among younger people, with many prolonging Dry January and ditching IPAs for non-alcoholic beers. But unlike Radke, most people don't navigate their newfound sobriety on a reality TV show that revolves around booze.
He tried drinking in moderation but filming made it harder
Prior to his brother's death, Radke had explored therapy and AA meetings during the pandemic, even going sober for a few months. Because he heard of some people having success with drinking in moderation, he went into filming season five in 2020 with the hope that strategy would work for him, too.
But he said the conflict in the house and the news of his brother derailed his plans — three canned cocktails quickly multiplied to "15 other drinks."
Plus, he said that he felt alcohol enhanced who he was on the show. "It kind of amps you up a little bit — it gets you a little more willing to say things or do things and just be more free," he said. While he said he never felt pushed to drink by the production team, cracking another beer was a natural response to tension from other people in the house or dealing with a hard week.
Now, he navigates conflicts with his castmates more calmly
In the past two seasons, Radke has been completely sober during production and filming. He said that it's changed his outlook on other people's late-night fights; that it can "certainly be jarring," when others are intoxicated and furious over something that seems silly to him, as someone who hasn't had a drink.
"It's another reminder for me of why I don't consume," he said. "Because I can get incredibly angry. I can make really terrible decisions. I can be very disrespectful and just things that I don't want to be."
Being sober helps him step back before saying something he regrets. "Alcohol kind of gives you that quicker reaction," he said. Without it, he said, he's "processing, thinking, trying to listen and understand."
Being sober helped him fall in love with his costar
One of the biggest developments in the show was Radke falling for — and proposing to — his fellow castmate, Lindsay Hubbard. The two had a friendship throughout the show, and even tried to date once before Radke was sober.
At the time, he said they were in different places in their lives and he didn't have "the brain power to fully understand what Lindsay deserves" from a committed partner. "I was focused on getting drunk and just chasing the night."
They broke up and stayed friends, even living in the same apartment complex. Then, newly sober, Radke's view of Hubbard changed. "When I can be myself and be very comfortable around someone, that's a great feeling," he said. "And Lindsay was always like that for me. I'm kind of goofy. I'm kind of a dork. She allows me to be Real Carl and that was something that was really beautiful for me."
Leading up to his one-year sobriety date in 2022, Hubbard stopped drinking around the holidays to support Radke. While she still drinks, he said she saw benefits to omitting alcohol as well.
His career, health, finances, and relationships improved with sobriety
Before he went sober, Radke was working as a salesperson on his costars' hard seltzer brand, Loverboy. He continued his role there after he quit drinking, but eventually parted ways "in the best terms possible" in December 2022. While he's still an investor and "roots for" his friends' success, he said his sobriety made him start "questioning the authenticity" of working for an alcohol company.
He's now excited to pursue film projects in the future. He studied TV and film in college and initially fell into sales work to afford living in New York City, putting his career passions aside. He also said sobriety has also improved his relationship with his parents, his mental health, and his finances. "I can't tell you how many times I've spent $300 at brunch," he said.
While he can't participate in wine tastings or rounds of shots with his castmates like he used to, he said his summers on the show have been more freeing, especially because he remembers them better. "People can still go to the Hamptons and not drink and still have a fun time," he said. "They can still be interesting. They can still have a lot of things going on in their lives. It may just look a little different."
Read the original article on Insider